This week in our Summer Reading Challenge, we’re visiting Greece. So, thanks to our newest addition to the Redeemedreader family, Hayley Schoeppler, for leading us today and in our recent Lightning Thief post!
Maybe it was the influence of Percy Jackson, maybe it was the D’Aulaires, but now you have a reader who wants to learn more about Ancient Greece. Or, you might be the one who wants to do the research! The good news is that there are lots of kids’ books about Ancient Greece…which is also the bad news! Discerning reading and previewing is a must, especially considering the lifestyle of the Greeks and the sensual and even homosexual side of some Greek myths.
Adventures in Ancient Greece (Good Times Travel Agency) by Linda Bailey
Part of the Good Times Travel Agency series, this book is just plain fun. The Binkerton siblings, in hopes of traveling forward to the next Olympic games, instead get zapped back to Ancient Greece. Their key to returning to the present: a guidebook which they must read through. Each page presents two sections: at the top, readers follow the Binkerton’s adventures and misadventures in Ancient Greece. At the bottom of the page, is a section of the guidebook, explaining in an informative and lively style the world of Ancient Greece which is often linked to the events of that particular page. This book is a perfect read aloud for younger children. Also, by reading it aloud you can insure that they do not skip over all the informative guidebook sections. (I confess I did with this very book at an earlier age!) One warning, when the Binkertons do arrive at the Olympic Games they are shocked by the mode in which athletes compete, namely -nude. The illustrations show some bare backsides but nothing else!
Worldview/Morality rating: 4 (out of 5); Literary rating: 3.5 (out of 5)
Greek Gods And Goddesses by Geraldine McCaughrean.
(Unfortunately out-of-print, I’m still going to include this book since it is available used at affordable prices on Amazon.)
During a recent unit study on Ancient Greece, I came upon this book and was pleasantly surprised. Told as a story, this book covers some of the major myths involving Greek gods and goddesses. Hermes serves as the narrator for part of the time, and his own story is my personal favorite! The illustrations by Emma Chichester Clark are gorgeous and complement the story perfectly. While the gods and their infidelity is mentioned it is done so in a way that is appropriate for younger ears, speaking of Aphrodite’s marriage to Hephaestus, the narrator says:
She was not kind to him; she was not true to him. But she dared not treat him too badly, for fear her bed would eat her, her bath roast her, her chariot toss her up among the stars. And such was Hephaestus’ craftsmanship . . .
One warning, the story of Apollo and Hyacinth is told under the banner “The Two Loves of Apollo” and while the story merely says that Apollo had a little friend who he loved to play with, more mature readers will recognize that there is more to the story than what is told. I chose to skip over it when reading aloud, which can be done without missing anything in the greater story.
Worldview/Morality rating: 3.5 (out of 5); Literary rating: 4 (out of 5)
Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of ‘The Iliad’ by Rosemary Sutcliff
This retelling of the Illiad, beautifully illustrated by Alan Lee (illustrator of Lord of the Rings), is a classic in its own right. Sutcliff tells the story of Troy in a flowing prose that captures the beauty of Homer’s epic poem. I have read it aloud to a 2nd grader, and it can be done in measured quantities. While my listener insisted that D’Aulaires’ Greek Myths was better, I noticed that during battle scenes, there was hushed, intent listening occurring! The book is divided in sections, rather like chapters. Here is an example from the beginning of one such chapter:
“When Menelaus returned from hunting and found his queen fled with the Trojan prince, the black grief and the red rage came upon him, and he sent word of the wrong done to him and a furious call for aid to his brother, black-bearded Agamemnon, who was High King over all the other kings of Greece.”
One warning: the artwork, while beautiful, does occasionally portray semi-nude women, particularly Thetis, a sea-nymph and Achilles’ mother. (It is also available through Amazon in a paperback version that is not illustrated by Alan Lee so that is another option.) While I feel like I must include the caution, I hope it does not deter you; I highly recommend this book.
Worldview/Morality rating: 4 (out of 5); Literary rating: 5 (out of 5)
Each of these three books is an excellent read-aloud but can also be read independently. Not included in this list, since it has already been reviewed HERE on Redeemed Reader, is D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. I grew up listening to the audiobook, and it is because of the D’Aulaires that I came to love Greek mythology and can to this day identify any number of mythological allusions in Classic literature. So, if you have not already, please read (or listen) to D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths!
Do you have a favorite book on Greek or Roman mythology? If so, we’d love to hear about it!